"American Idol" officially entered into its final round for Season 13 Wednesday night, recapped Yahoo TV on Feb. 27, as the Top 13 finalists took to the stage to show America just who they were, singing the songs they believed captured their essences as artists. And apparently former judge Randy Jackson will be around to mold and mentor the contestants all season (and not just lend his name and platitudes to the Randy Jackson Workshop), not to mention provide feedback as to how each of the finalists are doing. But if "This Is Me," the song theme for the first week, is any indication as to who the Top 13 are as artists, the next few weeks could be a bit rough.
The performances can be broken up into three basic categories. There were the good performances, those that should place their singers firmly in the Top 12. There were the mediocre performances, the ones that will most likely keep their singers in the competition -- at least for another few weeks. And there were the bad performances, those that should guarantee the contestants that rendered them a place in the bottom. "Should" -- but might not, given how "American Idol" traditionally is a bastion of strength for guys with guitars (remember: "Idol" has suffered from symptoms associated with White Guy With Guitar syndrome in the past) and a place where big voices usually go to get voted off the show.
That being said, here they are:
C. J. Harris: This Alabama contestant stuck to his country roots and tossed in Darius Rucker's "Radio" for his entry. Upbeat and with a good rhythm, Harris got the crowd involved. To give an indication as to how the night was going overall, C. J. Harris was the fifth performer. Yeah, it was going that well...
Majesty Rose: Something about this contestant reminds one of Corinne Bailey Rae with power. She offered up Janelle Monae's "Tightrope" and nailed it.
Jena Irene: With a voice that harkens back to the vocalist Linda Perry of 4 Non Blondes, the all-girl band that had the Top 15 hit "What's Up?" in 1993, Irene chose Coldplay's "The Scientist." Girl's got range and she showed it.
Alex Preston: This accomplished musician stayed in his wheelhouse for his first song, choosing Jason Mraz's "A Beautiful Mess." When Judge Harry Connick Jr. attempted a little criticism, the live audience was having none of it.
Jessica Meuse: With the second-most off-the-wall "This Is Me" song choice, Jessica settled into her comfort zone and performed Shinedown's "The Crow and the Butterfly." Perhaps the best performance of the night, Judge Jennifer Lopez said it was her favorite (to that point -- tenth in line) and that it gave her "goosies." Hauntingly well done, Judge Harry and Keith Urban also liked it.
Emily Piriz: Performing Pink's "Glitter In The Air," Emily Piriz showed off her range. She also showed that she can track a camera.
Caleb Johnson: After rocking out to Rival Sons' "Pressure and Time," the most outside-the-box song choice of the night, Judge Harry told Caleb that he had to be careful as not to be seen as too "retro." Still, if you wanted a good show-closer, it was provided. Caleb Johnson won't have a problem getting a few votes, but he has to be careful of his obvious swagger -- the boy knows he can sing and it could cost him votes if viewers find him arrogant.
Dexter Roberts: The Alabama country boy kicked off the show in the dead spot, and he did it with Chris Young's "Aw Naw," a totally forgettable country song. Judge Keith warned Dexter in the semi-finals that he had to be careful because, although a good singer, his voice isn't exceptional. He should hope America remembers his past performances and that he's actually in the competition so he will get enough votes to stick around.
Kristen O'Connor: Perhaps the second-worst song choice of the night -- Kelly Clarkson's "Beautiful Disaster." Not only does it draw comparisons to the voice of the show's greatest pop success story, the Florida nurse seemed to get stuck in a low register. Not that it was awful, but the song just sat there, emotionless, so pageant-like that you could have sworn Kristen O'Connor might be handed a tiara later in the show.
Ben Briley: Judges Harry and Jennifer can say what they want, but Judge Keith Urban was on the money when he said that Briley's "Folsom Prison Blues" was "brisk," that if Johnny Cash had done it that way, he most likely would have been prompted by certain stimulants. It was so "Orange Blossom Special," it was perhaps a twang away from being bluegrass. But it wasn't bad; just different. And there was a brilliant Texas swing ending that most people probably missed...
Sam Woolf: It appeared that young Sam Woolf was not connected at all to his "This Is Me" song choice, Matchbox 20's "Unwell." The 17-year-old gave the song a vocal flow that moved like smooth pop, not like the frenetic intensity that Rob Thomas gave the lyrics when he made it a hit. Not bad, just not anything to make it stand out. Of course, he had a guitar, so he most likely has nothing to worry about.
Malaya Watson: Absolutely the worst song choice of the night. Why Randy Jackson didn't catch this during rehearsals is difficult to say. Perhaps there didn't seem to be a problem. However, Bruno Mars' "Runaway Baby," although a fun and fast-paced tune, is not a song for a 16-year-old female. It's about a hardcore player looking for conquests. Regardless, Malaya's stage performance was alright but her vocals were flat-out -- what's the word? -- terrible. There was just one tonally flat run-on sentence.
M. K. Nobilette: Still trying to understand how this California contestant made the cut into the Top 31, then the Top 20, and so on. Regardless, now that she's in the Top 13, she made an interesting song choice with Allen's "Satisfaction." But there was no real connection between M. K. and the lyrics. In fact, it was noted that she had a "deer in the headlights" look about her. And yet, the judges primarily had nothing truly bad to say about the second-worst performance of the Top 13 finalists.
So Who Should Go Home?
In the end, it will be up to the "American Idol" viewers and voters to bestow enough votes upon 12 of the finalists to make certain that the thirteenth and lowest vote recipient goes home. Since there were only two truly poor performances on the night (Malaya Watson and M. K. Nobilette), fairness would put these two in the bottom two without anyone else vying to get the boot. But since the rules of the show call for a bottom three, there has to be another contestant that gets to sit in the now traditions Silver Stools of Uncertainty. In all fairness, that person should come from the group that gave alright, okay, meh, and/or mediocre performances. Of those, Dexter Roberts and Kristen O'Connor's performances were the most bland. And if history is an indicator, Dexter's guitar will save him from having to sit a stool. But he should.
So it looks like the results show will see three girls in the bottom three. And if there's any justice, M. K. Nobilette, who has shown absolutely no range whatsoever, will be sent home. However, given Malaya Watson's really, really bad performance, she just might get the boot. Kristen O'Connor got into the Top 13 via a Wild Card vote, so she's not altogether safe, either.
But "American Idol" is a singing competition, so the one going home will be Nobilette.
Right... That formula has always worked on "Idol"...
"American Idol" returns on Thursday evening at 8 p.m. (EST) on Fox Television to reveal the results of America's vote and the Top 12. Appearing will be Season 12 winner Candice Glover, whose debut album, Music Speaks, was released just last week.